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British Psychological Society "out of step" with public opinion over government cuts

May 30, 2011
by Angela Hussain


Psychologists have accused the British Psychological Society (BPS), of being ?out of step? with public opinion over its failure to campaign against coalition government cuts.

Ninety-nine psychologists have signed a letter to the membership magazine of the BPS, which represents chartered psychologists in the UK, claiming the BPS is afraid of ?putting its head above the parapet?.

In particular, the BPS is criticised for not making any public comment following the sacking in February of psychologist and governent adviser David Richards after he questioned funding mechanisms for the IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) initiative, which is supported and promoted by the BPS.

The letter's signatories said there were many activities the BPS could participate in. These included reporting the damaging effects of cuts affecting NHS services, joining the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Nursing in campaigning against "creeping marketisation" of the NHS, and examining the social and psychological impact of increased higher education tuition fees.

Banner at a march against government cuts.
Photo by: Aayesha Mulla

The letter, drafted by David Harper, a reader in clinical psychology at the University of East London, read: ?To those who would say that the Society's charitable status prevents it from engaging in political debate, we note that the Charity Commissioners actively promote public debate by charities on issues where they have expertise so long as they do not support a particular political party line.?


The letter to The Psychologist, published by the British Psychological Society, in full:

Dear Editor,

'Experts of all kinds sound off in private about the impact of the coalition's cuts - but timidly zip their lips in public' ran a Guardian headline accompanying Polly Toynbee's article on 1 October last year.

As the public sector cuts deepen and we see de facto privatisation of the NHS and higher education sectors, the effects will be wide-ranging and profound.

Yet we wait in vain for a thorough discussion of these issues in 'The Psychologist', or reports of Society representatives raising concerns about these developments. Once again the Society seems out of step with public feeling: March, for example saw nearly half a million people marching in opposition to these cuts.
There are many things the Society could be doing. It could report the effects of the cuts that are directly affecting NHS services.  It could join the BMA, the RCN and campaign against the creeping marketization of the NHS. It could contrast the launch of the Big Society initiative with the cuts in support for charities as a result of local authority cuts. It could examine the social and psychological impact of increased tuition fees - likely to reduce social mobility even further. It could open up debate of the continuation of
neo-liberal policy frameworks that have already failed in the financial sector. It could challenge the Coalition's single narrative that public debt has been caused by profligate public spending.

All these issues are of immediate interest to psychologists. Psychological processes are involved in Government attempts to make the cuts appear reasonable, acceptable and inevitable. The cuts will deeply affect the lives, careers and working practices of many psychologists. And most of all, they will have a profoundly damaging impact upon many who use their services.

To those who would say that the Society's charitable status prevents it from engaging in political debate, we note that the Charity Commissioners actively promote public debate by charities on issues where they have expertise so long as they do not support a particular political party line.

Perhaps the Society is afraid of putting its head above the parapet - we are aware of no public comment by the Society following the reported sacking by Andrew Lansley of David Richards - adviser to the IAPT initiative which was much promoted by Society representatives.  He had had the temerity to ask searching questions about the funding of IAPT

The Society and, indeed its members, needs to put pressure on the government to change its course before irreversible damage is done to the public sector and to society. If it does not do so, it will be failing its members in spectacular fashion. As another Toynbee headline put it 'those who know disaster looms mustn't stay quiet'

Yours sincerely,

Dave Harper
University of East London

Taiwo Afuape
Jacqui Akhurst
Mark Allen
 Darren Baker
Martyn Baker
 Robin Bennett
Mark Bertram
Julie Bird
Amy Bloxham
 Alex Bridger
Erica Burman
Mark Burton
 Angela Byrne
 Anna Caffrey
 Jane Callaghan
Gina Campion
 Richard Cant
 Rose Capdevila
Ruth Chester
Jasmine Chin
Karen Ciclitira
 Jennifer Clegg
 Annis Cohen
 Steven Coles
 Christine Collinson
Helen Combes
Anne Cooke
 Sarah Davidson
 Paul de Mornay Davies
Sarah Dilks
Angela Drinnan
 Paul Duckett
 Darren Ellis
Alison Fell
Daniela Fernandez Catherall
Wendy Franks
David Fryer
 Laura Gallant
 Kate Gleeson
Louise Goodbody
Jayne Griffiths
Jo Hadfield
Susan Hansen
Pennie Haywood
Guy Holmes
 Miranda Horvath
Philip Houghton
Macey Kat
 Sarah Keenan
Katherine Johnson
Joanna Levene
Steven Livingstone
Jacqui Lovell
Jenny Maslin
Elizabeth Matheson
Abdullah Mia
Steve Melluish
Annie Mitchell
Luke Mitcheson
Deodata Monero
Nick Moore
Gareth Morgan
Kajori Mukherjee
Aayesha Mulla
 Karin Nanis
 Calum Neill
Pieter Nel
Ian Parker
 Nimisha Patel
Soren Petter
 Goran Petronic
David Pilgrim
 Simon Platts
Penny Priest
Mark Rapley
 Melinda Rees
Neil Rees
 Ron Roberts
Jennie Rowdon
Sim Roy-Chowdhury
 Snehal Shah
David Smail
Janine Soffe
Helen Spandler
Frederic Stansfield
Sarah Supple
Danny Taggart
Lisa Thorne
Anna Tickle
Ian Tucker
Robyn Vesey
Yvonne Waft
David Ward
 Sam Warner
 Jay Watts
 Aian Webster
 Sally Westward
Mel Wiseman

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